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Planning commission sends general plan to the supervisors

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Harry Reeves, representing the Plumas Audubon Society, encourages the Plumas County Planning Commission to approve the general plan update during a public hearing Oct. 17. From left: planning commission members Betsy Schramel, Larry Williams, John Olofson and Mark Dotta; County Counsel Craig Settlemire; Planning Director Randy Wilson; and
Senior Planner Becky Herrin.  Photo by Debra Moore

 

Debra Moore
Staff Writer
10/25/2013
 

Plumas County could be just one step away from implementing a new general plan update.

At the conclusion of a public hearing Oct. 17, the Plumas County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the general plan update and certify the associated final environmental impact report (EIR).

The fate of the general plan is now in the hands of the five county supervisors. They may take up the issue Nov. 12, depending on the schedules of those involved.

The planning commission members took the action following about 90 minutes of public comment — with most of the speakers advising against adopting the documents.

For a moment it appeared that the speakers might get their wish. Commissioner Mark Dotta, who represents the Sierra Valley, questioned the wisdom of listening to public comment, but then not taking adequate time to consider it.

“My idea of a public hearing is to receive input that we’re supposed to consider,” he said.

Then he raised another issue just moments later. “Through this whole process, climate change has been a problem,” he said. “Could someone clarify that for me?”

Ray Weiss, the county’s consultant for the environmental impact report, told Dotta that California legislation required its inclusion. Many in the audience had insisted that it was optional, and not state law.

During an interview after the meeting, Senior Planner Becky Herrin said that the issue had come up repeatedly during the years spent working on the general plan.

Ultimately Dotta asked for language changes in two areas before joining his fellow commissioners and voting in favor of the general plan update.

In addition to Dotta’s request, Commissioner Larry Williams asked that the planning department’s staff report be included in findings approved by the planning commission.

Overall there was little discussion among the five commissioners, four of whom were present in the room, with the fifth, Rich Rydell, available via speakerphone.

 

The hearing

Roughly three dozen people attended the public hearing, which was held in the Mineral Building at the fairgrounds, with about a third of those taking a turn with the microphone.

At times attendees seemed confused by the proceedings, which was due in part to the commissioners appearing befuddled.

Commission Chairman John Olofson at first instructed the public to only comment on the environmental impact report.

Just as he was poised to close the public hearing, County Counsel Craig Settlemire corrected his directive and said the hearing included the opportunity to speak on the general plan update as well.

This caused speakers, who had been limited to a three-minute, one-time opportunity with the mic, to ask for another chance to address the commissioners.

While the majority of the speakers spoke out against the general plan and environmental document, a handful were supportive, including Harry Reeves representing Plumas Audubon Society.

Reeves read a letter that listed reasons for the group’s support.

“The General Plan Update process has been a model of inclusiveness,” Reeves read. “The draft document has been developed by the Planning Commission, Planning Department and consultants over a period of more than seven years. The written and oral comments used to refine the plan have come from many individuals, businesses and governmental agencies through participation in numerous working group sessions, public meetings, and hearings.”

Reeves said that the group agrees with the plan’s objectives, including maintaining economically viable agricultural and timber activities, and avoiding development outside of existing communities and services districts.

But those latter restrictions are what prompt some to worry about private property rights.

“It looks to me like the EIR doesn’t protect my private property rights or water rights,” Chester resident Lee Ballard said. She added that the long-term consequence of the document would be the “removal of people from the land.”

Indian Valley resident Heather Kingdon agreed and said that she believed that the county was being pushed by “neo-environmentalists” who choose the environment over people.

Kingdon talked about the yellow-legged frog and its potential impact on property owners.

“This is our livelihood; we are fighting for our lives here,” she said.

Indian Valley rancher Susy Pearce agreed. “If this EIR goes through there will be no ranching anywhere,” she said. “You have to protect us.”

Pearce also questioned the need to have a sheriff’s deputy present.

Board Chairman Olofson said the officer was there so that everyone would have the opportunity to speak.

Dean Wilson encouraged the supervisors to watch the documentary “Agenda” and wanted them to do so before they took a vote.

“It will change your mind,” he said. (The film can be obtained by going to agendadocumentary.com.)

Sierra Valley rancher Jane Roberti encouraged the commission to “keep it simple,” saying that the more verbiage there was, the more it could be open to interpretation.

She said she wants to ensure that the ranch remains viable for her daughter, who is 10.

The future of the county’s youth was also on Todd Anderson’s mind.

“This plan is going to affect all the youth — youth who aren’t even born yet,” the Indian Valley resident said. “We need to give them hope. This plan does not.”

Portola resident Lynn Desjardin, a vocal opponent of the general plan, said the plan should have been written for a place like Santa Clara. She also spoke out against the climate change inclusion as well as grant money that comes through nongovernmental organizations.

But Jerry Hurley, chairman of the Plumas County Fire Safe Council, said those grants are necessary. Hurley, a proponent of the general plan, said that he began participating in the process in the early stages “to focus on public safety and wildfire mitigation.”

He said that many of the things included in the general plan came out of the working groups, not NGOs.

Indian Valley resident Gordon Keller was another individual who had been involved in the planning process.

“What we’ve got is not perfect,” Keller said, but as a taxpayer, what he sees is something “that’s reasonably workable.”

“I think we should move ahead, stop using the taxpayers’ money and adopt the EIR.”

And that’s just what the commission did.

To read the EIR, general plan update and much more on the process go to countyofplumas.com. The information is available on the home page, by clicking on “general plan update.”

 

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